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Belbin and the 'GIG Economy'

"Gigging" is on the rise. It's broadly described as freelancing or taking on a series of short-term contracts, rather than working in permanent employment.

In the UK, 15% of workers are now self-employed, with the expansion of self-employment playing a large in part in dropping unemployment figures. In the States, it's a whopping 34% of the workforce.

From consultants to contractors, gigging promotes small-scale innovation and entrepreneurship, and can offer workers a better work-life balance. But it's not the ideal working situation for everyone. Some would struggle without the structure and close working relationships that organisations offer. Others might suffer from the loss of professional identity and status.

But what does a gig economy mean for the way we work together?

In short, gigging means working with a wider variety of people on shorter-term projects.

Rather than working in an established team with colleagues we know well, individuals engage directly with one another for a short time and then move on.

Organisations are being encouraged to embrace the rise of the "portfolio career", contracting work out to a diverse mix of individuals on a temporary basis to bring in specific expertise, whilst maximising flexibility and manage ongoing costs.


At the recruitment stage, Belbin is an invaluable tool for discerning what each person might have to contribute. For example, a company might be looking for a freelance programmer to develop a new app.

If the project specifications have been carefully considered and time is of the essence, an Implementer/Completer Finisher might be required to work efficiently and accurately to get the job done.

If the organisation is staring at a blank page, a Plant/Monitor Evaluator might be able to offer the ideas and judgement needed to get things started.

Existing teams

Where freelancers are being brought into existing teams, Belbin can help too. On a film set, each person has a defined role – a gaffer can step onto any set and know what they have to do.

Belbin offers the same flexibility in behavioural terms – understanding Team Role contributions and knowing one another's strengths helps the team adjust to the newcomer and distribute work effectively to make best use of each person's talents. It can also be used to flag up potential difficulties arising in the team – for example, if the new team member might overlap areas of expertise with a territorial Specialist, or lock horns with the resident Shaper.

Are you a 'gigger'?

If you're a gigger, the ability to announce your strengths succinctly and with confidence is more important than ever. So too is the ability to understand the way others work – there’s little time or room for misunderstandings.

Once you understand your strengths, you can use this knowledge as you move from one job to the next. Your preferred styles are a Team Role "passport" – a kind of shorthand you can take with you, whatever the gig.

The important question becomes not where you work, but how you work best.

Start learning and using the language of Belbin Team Roles to help you get a 'gigging' head start!


"Self-employment and the gig economy", House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, April 2017

"Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce", an independent study commissioned by Freelancers Union & Elance-oDesk, 2015

"The future of work: a journey to 2022", PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2014

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